Are there any spaces in Korean?

Sometimes I write blog entries as if I know what I am talking about.  Ha!  What follows is ramblings about spaces in the Korean language and writing a simple sentence.

Let this novice share something I haven’t quite figured out in Korean.  Some day, the mysteries of Korean will become clear and I will forget I ever struggled with simple things.  So let this be a nostalgic memory I want to keep.

I do not know where to put spaces in a Korean sentence.  As an initial learner, there are moments when I wonder if Korean even has spaces.  The beginner texts will coddle me and give me lots of white space between those confusing Hangul syllables.  My own handwritten scrawls of Hangul are no indication of actual white space between words.  Yet other places it seems like Korean is just all smushed together.  Really lacking in white space for me to rest my weary brain while deciphering sentences.

(Part of the problem is that I am not familiar enough with the Hangul font letter spacing or kerning to discern Hangul typeset. I want more space between Korean words.  I also still want two spaces between sentences … I know that’s wrong.  I haven’t fully embraced Hangul letters size adjusting depending on how they combined. Curious minds can read about Hangul Text Layout and Typography.(1) )

I wanted to remind my language exchange partner (LEP) that today is when my online Korean class is, so don’t look for me at our usual meetup time.  To torture myself, I thought I would try to form this thought into a Korean sentence.

(Whenever I get too chatty in English with my LEP, I tell myself to only write him in Korean, and it is like putting on the mute button.  To form a Korean sentence still takes me like 15 minutes.  LOL.  Not exactly fast enough to text chat!)

So it was a brave new day, and I thought I would take a stab at writing a sentence.

The first sentence I send in a chat can take me 15 minutes to compose, and LEP doesn’t know it because all he sees is a sentence full grown in Hangul from me.  Hangul in chats from me is pretty rare.  Even typing 안녕하세요 takes a bit of time, because I open up the virtual keyboard and slowly enter each letter one mouse click at a time.  In real time chats, I rarely use more than one Hangul syllable words.  네. 하. Or even shorter ㅋㅋㅋ .

My hope is the first sentence leaves a lasting impression, making me seem like I have Korean skills, when in truth with this particular LEP, I mostly speak English.  He could be excused for thinking I am not actually studying Korean!  (Impatient with my own progress, undisciplined and scatterbrained about studying, easily distracted, maybe it is an exaggeration to say I am studying Korean.)

So bravely, I am trying to make a sentence.

I’m still working on my numbers, so I thought I would say “Today is Wednesday, May 4, 2014.  I have class today.  Class at 9 am.”  The “don’t call me during class time” sentiment would have to be written in English because that FAR exceeds my current ability.

In speaking, I do very poorly with imitating the intonation and cadence of Korean.  Words get dragged kicking and screaming out of my brain, so it comes out in these jerky start and stop bursts.  Writing still uses the same brain.  Still dragging the words out reluctantly, one syllable at a time.  I put a space on the line after syllable.

It is like in English writing “5 / 4 / 2 0 1 4”.  In Hangul, it looked like this:

오늘 수요일이에요. 이천십사 년, 사 일이에요.  (WRONG)

A millisecond later, my language exchange partner wrote back:

이천십사년 유월 사일


1.  No spaces between numbers and counter for year ‘년’.  No spaces between 4 and day counter ‘일’.

2.  I forgot the month (whoops!) No space between 6 and month counter ‘월’.


The rest of this post is just notes to myself about dates and typography.




Today is June 4.  오늘은 6윌 4일이에요.

2 3 4 5 6
그저께day before yesterday 어제yesterday 오늘today  내일tomorrow 모레day after tomorrow

지난달은 바빴지만, 이번 달은 한가해요.
I was busy last month, but I’m free this month.

지난달 = last month
바쁘다 = busy
~지만 = but
이번 this (time)
달 = month
한가하다 = free

Days of the Week

Sunday 일요일
Monday 월요일
Tuesday 화요일
Wednesday 수요일
Thursday 목요일
Friday 금요일
Saturday 토요일


Months of the Year

January 일월
February 이월
March 삼월
April 사월
May 오월
June * 유월
July 칠월
August 팔월
September 구월
October * 시월
November 십일월
December 십이월

* Note the spelling of June and October


(1)Quotes from Requirements for Hangul Text Layout and Typography

  • 각각의 문화 공동체는 자신만의 언어와 문자 체계를 갖는다. 특히 동양과 서양의 경우에는 이러한 차이가 크다. 따라서 이러한 언어 시스템을 디지털화하여 표현하는 데는 언어 시스템을 정확하게 표현하기 위한 많은 정보와 기술이 필요하다.  Every cultural group has its own language and writing system. Especially between East and West, the difference is great. Thus to digitize the writing system, a lot of data and technology is needed that accurately represents the language and writing system.
  • 한국어 시스템에 대한 논의와 기술 시 기술적인 용어에 대해서는 해당 한국어를 의미하는 영어 단어가 존재한다 하더라도 주위를 기울여 그 두 언어 사이에 존재할 수 있는 잠재적인 차이점과 뉘앙스에 대해 검토하였으며, 한국어와 영어를 동시에 표현하여 향후 논의를 지속할 수 있도록 하였다. 또한 많은 그림을 삽입하여 영어로 표현하기 힘든 부분에 대해서 가능한 쉽게 정리하는 노력을 하였다.  The technical terms for discussing and describing the Korean writing system were carefully selected after considering potential differences in nuance even if a direct translation exists, and in some parts they were described in both languages so the discussion can be continued in the future. Also many figures are included to promote understanding for certain parts that are hard to describe in English.
  • 텍스트 레이아웃 규칙과 읽도록 하는 디자인의 권고안들은 서로 다르다.  Text layout rules and recommendations for readable design are different matters, but it is hard to discuss these two aspects separately.
  • 유니코드의 한글 영역에는 완성형 한글 글자와 자모로 구성되어 있다.  The Hangul code ranges in Unicode consist of precomposed Hangul syllables and the Hangul ‘Jamo’ alphabet.


It occurs to me today that learning the Korean language has to include acquiring the skill to easily read Hangul in whatever form it appears.  By that I mean, to visually perceive the spacing, font variations, handwriting styles, etc.

Word perception is a skill.

Try teaching a computer to recognize the letter ‘A’ in all the forms it can appear, and you’ll realize it is an advanced human skill.

So learning the spacing in Korean will take practice and seeing lots of examples.

Hangul is written both vertically and horizontally.



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